This chart compiles the findings of a new study published
in the New England Journal of Medicine that looks back at the last 200
years of deaths. Judging by the results, the only things modern medicine
hasn't managed to solve is cancer and heart disease.
The Washington Post also points out that not only has the kinds of death evolved, but the way practitioners talk about medical conditions has also been transformed. Back in 1812, reports of spontaneous combustion were taken quite seriously by the medical community, as were debates over how, exactly one would be injured by a close-call with a cannonball. Here's what they wrote:
Doctors agreed that even a near miss by a cannonball — without contact — could shatter bones, blind people, or even kill them (1812f). Reports of spontaneous combustion, especially of “brandy-drinking men and women,” received serious, if skeptical, consideration (1812g). And physicians were obsessed with fevers — puerperal, petechial, catarrhal, and even an outbreak of “spotted fever” in which some patients were neither spotted nor febrile (1812e).